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Big Game Grand Slam Photo Style
Utah Grand Slam
Bagging your own grand slam
Many hunters across the world set their sights on bagging a grand slam. Sheep hunters try to harvest one of each of the four species of sheep. Turkey hunters pursue four different species of wild turkeys. The most ambitious hunters strive to obtain a trophy of all the big game animals in their state or country.
There are eight big game species available to hunt in Utah. Under the current application system it takes the average hunter at least ten years of applying to draw a permit for the most popular hunting areas. Some simple math can reveal a discouraging scenario. If a hunter starts making application for the big game species of the beehive state when they turn 14, they could reach their mid 80s by the time they draw out on all the permits.
The solution to this dilemma and that of coming up with the cash to pay for the application fees and permit costs is really quite simple. Just grab a camera and head for the hills.
Today's cameras are incredible. Even the low end cameras or most cell phones have magnification features and more than adequate resolution. My iphone takes 8 megapixle photos. My "hunting" camera is a five year old canon digital rebel. It also takes 8 megapixle photos.
Obviously spending a little cash on a good camera and lens will improve the quality of your photos, but not necessarily the enjoyment of your outing. To get started on your own grand slam just use the camera you have and see where it goes from there.
Tricks of the trade
In this hub I want to talk about the benefits of hunting with a camera. I addressed some of the skills and techniques to help you get good wildlife photos in a previous hub. To read it click on the link below.
Most Popular Units
Years To Draw A Permit
San Rafael North
Rocky Mountain Bighorn
Nine Mile/Range Creek
Rocky Mountain Goat
How I got my Utah Grand Slam
Several years ago I realized that i would never in my lifetime be able to draw a permit for each of the big game species in Utah. During a discussion with one of my sons we decided to go after a photo grand slam. We accomplished that goal in just under a year and had a blast.
Since that time we have had the opportunity to do at least one photo safari each year. We don't need to worry about season dates, bag limits or permit fees. We have had the opportunity to pursue our amazing wildlife in areas we would never be able to afford and mounting our trophies on the wall is a lot cheaper.
Take advantage of this great opportunity to expand your hunting time afield and bag your own photo grand slam.
Book Cliffs bucks during the rut
Mule deer are the most popular big game animal in Utah, and for good reason. There critters can be found from the highest peaks to the lowest desert. Utah has earned a reputation for having some of the most sought after permits for mulies.
Drawing out a coveted Henry Mountain permit can take over 15 years of applications. This year the Antelope Island deer permit auctioned off for $310,000.
I have had the opportunity to visit the Henry Mountains on three different photo safaris, the Book Cliffs several times and twice in the past three months I've been able to "shoot" the bucks of Antelope Island.
The Rocky Mountain elk is doing very well in Utah. The new world record nontypical elk was taken on Monroe Mountain in central Utah. Other popular elk hunting units include the Pavaunt, San Juan and Manti units. Drawing a permit on these units can take as long as 19 years.
I have been fortunate enough to look for elk on a couple of these units. Although I haven't yet managed to get a good photo of a true trophy, I have found some nice bulls and been able to enjoy the heart-stopping thrill of seeing and hearing these majestic animals.
These desert speedsters are not hard to find, but getting close enough for a good photo can be a challenge. Their eyesight is equivalent to ours using eight power binoculars.
Pursuing pronghorns with a camera will test your stalking skills, camouflage tricks and patience, but they make a striking photo trophy.
The most popular pronghorn unit is the San Rafael North area. Drawing a permit here can take ten years. Other popular areas are the Daggett, Plateau, and West Desert units.
Desert Bighorn Sheep
These wild sheep are found mostly in southern Utah. We got into them around Moab. Utah hunters can only bag one desert bighorn in their lifetime. I've been able to hunt them several times. Mid to late November is a great time to look for them. They are in the rut and can be found near the ewes. Temperatures in southern Utah are also quite nice during the winter.
The San Rafael unit is the most popular with hunters waiting up to 17 years for a permit.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Rocky Mountain bighorns are found in the more mountainous areas of the state than the desert bighorns. The most popular hunting unit is the Nine Mile/Range Creek area. Drawing a permit here can take up to 18 years and only one Rocky Mountain bighorn can be harvested in a lifetime.
The best photo opportunity for these rams is found in the early summer near the small central Utah town of Sunnyside. A group of rams spends the summer in the canyons just east of Sunnyside and can often be seen close to the road.
This is a great first safari for a budding wildlife photographer.
These ungainly creatures can be found in the northern Utah mountains. The most popular area is the North Slope/Summit unit. Hunters can wait 17 years for a permit here and can only bag one moose in their lifetime. I've found most of my moose while looking for other wildlife, making them a target of opportunity that would not have been possible had I been hunting with a gun.
I have seen moose near Fishlake, in Logan Canyon, the Strawberry Valley and on the way to Willard Peak to look for mountain goats.
Moose are another species that can only be hunted once in a lifetime, but I've hunted them several times with the camera.
Rocky Mountain Goat
The mountain goat is a fun photo challenge. They can sometimes be found just off the road, but on other occasions are far away on the rugged mountain cliffs they call home. We have found goats on the Tushar Mountains (the Beaver unit), Willard Peak and in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Each year the Utah Division of Wildlife sponsors goat viewing days on both the Tushar Mountains and the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. These are priceless opportunities to have biologists help your find, photograph and learn about these ghosts of the cliffs.
The most popular hunt is on the Beaver unit where it can take 16 years to draw a permit. The mountain goat is another species that can only be hunted once in a lifetime, unless you're hunting with your camera.
Often called the symbol of the American west, bison can be found on the Henry Mountains, the Book Cliffs, and Antelope Island. The most popular hunt is in the Henrys where it can take 19 years to draw a permit. Hunters are only allowed to hunt bison once in their lifetime.
Finding a bison on the Henry Mountains can be a challenge. This country is deceptively wild and big. By contrast, the bison on Antelope Island can be found grazing along the park roads almost any time of the day.